When it became apparent that the Sam Blakeslee-John Laird state Senate election was headed to a runoff, I thought, “Oh no — we have to suffer nearly two more months of being collateral damage in the Laird-Blakeslee slime fest.”
If you have a mailbox or have tried to watch television in the past two months, you know what I’m talking about.
There was, for example, the brochure showing a sinister-looking Blakeslee scowling in front of what appears to be a brown, oil-filled sea. It talks about “Oil Man Sam” and his “slippery past” and his “oily offshore drilling records,” concluding that he is “just too slick for California.”
Or how about the mailer depicting Laird as a “human wrecking ball,” or the one that shows a worried elderly couple saying, “Politician John Laird’s tax hikes hurt all of us.” Or the one that says Laird wants to reward convicted heroin and cocaine addicts, using your money.
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For the record, I do not think Blakeslee wants dead, oil-drenched sea life to wash up at Avila Beach. Nor do I believe that Laird wants to drive little old ladies out of their homes and into the arms of dope fiends.
In fact, I don‘t think either of them believes the swill they are putting out about the other man. They worked together for years in Sacramento. Each knows the other man is intelligent, well-intentioned and can work with the other party.
And yet, this is how they seek our votes.
Political observers who consider themselves sophisticated see nothing wrong with any of this campaign garbage. It comes with the territory, they (and by “they” I include this nation’s woeful political press) say. They scoff at those who take offense as being naïve.
Nor is negative campaigning new. My son, the American history teacher, doesn‘t like mud-slinging either, but he tells me John Adams and Thomas Jefferson worked each other over pretty good back in the day, and that this vilification goes back to the nation’s starting gate.
But here’s the thing: I don’t care how long it’s been around or how clever the chattering classes think it is.
Naïve or not, I’m just plain sick of it.
Why? Let me count the ways.
It insults our intelligence. It keeps people from participating in self-governance. It keeps those who vote anyway, despite the negative campaigns, from knowing the truth about issues and candidates. It tells us that, from the get-go, neither candidate has an ethical sense or personal integrity.
It pretty much puts the lie to the myth that our political system is the best in the world. If our government depends on an informed electorate, and that electorate is instead misinformed or making decisions based on lies, then the whole business is horse pucky.
I know what you’re thinking — cry me a river, you grade school doofus with your arrested political development. Buy a ticket to the real world.
Sorry, but I’m not changing. This is how I feel, and I don’t believe I’m alone.
I would like to be able to tell you that Laird and Blakeslee share some of these views. But I spoke with both of them after the June 22 election, and while each deplores the other’s campaigning tactics, neither sees a problem with his own.
“The negative campaigning clarified the issues,” Laird told me. Blakeslee said his ads merely laid out Laird’s record.
Sigh. And now the last campaign, at least in this election, has begun. And these guys are salivating to “set the record straight.”
Here is Blakeslee consultant Jim Nygren: Laird had a “lousy showing” in the June 22 election and “some of the least credible spin seen by political observers in many years — and that’s saying a great deal.”
Laird’s guy, Steve Maviglio, has weighed in as well, attacking Blakeslee as “someone who has ‘gone Sacramento’ and cozied up with Big Oil, banking interests and even social conservatives.”
Let me say this once again to both camps, in my calmest, most-modulated voice: Fer cripes sake, KNOCK THAT CRAP OFF!
While you two and your spin-meisters are fiddling away at that old one-upmanship tune, Sacramento is burning. Out here in the hinterlands, we’re getting torched.